Scott Willis

Host, Reporter, Producer

I’ve always been enamored with the intimacy of radio.  It’s so personal.  It forces you to listen…and listen only.  No visual distractions.  I grew up listening to mostly top 40 radio in Detroit, with no shortage of entertaining DJ’s.  As a teenager, I discovered the area’s all news station.  I loved knowing what was going on, and the intensity with which they told stories.  I often wondered what it would be like to be the first to know what was happening, and then tell others.  Maybe that’s why I pursued a career in news. 

I would go on to serve as an intern at that all-news station, and it was amazing and maybe a little overwhelming to see what it took to put out a constant stream of news.  But something was missing.  It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that I actually discovered Detroit’s public radio station at my alma mater.  What a difference!  You had time to write and tell engaging, meaningful stories, to be creative, all without the pressure to constantly crank out the news.  Quality over quantity.  That’s when I knew public radio was for me.  I was hooked.

I would hone my skills on and off for almost three years at WDET as an intern under the tutelage of a patient Assistant News Director. I produced daily stories for newscasts, but also was given the privilege of producing long-form features on topics that interested me, and that people knew very little about.  Now THAT was cool.  Right up my alley.  What budding reporter could ask for more?

I landed here in Syracuse in June 2001.  Today, I’ve come full circle, and now teach the craft to more than a dozen student reporters per week.  We work hard to choose informative stories, find the most engaging sound, and edit copy for clarity and accuracy. 

Outside of work, I spend time with my wife and little boy.  We like to take walks, travel, and read.  When I can, I’ll hop on my bike for a quick ride.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the honor and privilege of bringing WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners the news of the day during All Things Considered.  Thanks for listening.

Ways to Connect

Scott Willis / WAER News

Many Central New Yorkers this weekend might pause and reflect on the events of 15 years ago when terrorists used airliners to kill nearly 3,000 people.  The 21-foot, 6-ton steel column from the World Trade Center in front of DeWitt town hall is a constant reminder of that horrific day in 2001.  The tragedy hits close to home for DeWitt Town Supervisor Ed Michalenko.

  Central New York voters and business owners have a way to measure the performance of their state lawmakers according to the criteria of a pro-taxpayer, pro-business advocacy organization.  The group Unshackle Upstate is out with its latest scorecard of senators and assemblymembers.  Executive Director Greg Biryla says they release the results every legislative cycle…

"The purpose behind the scorecard is to try to distil the very complex machinations of Albany into an objective analysis of legislators and their performance on issues that we feel through feedback and other means are very critical to the economy, the employer community, and other communities in Upstate New York."

Biryla says their analysis looks at a range of issues.

"The cost of energy, the tax burden, the regulatory burden, unfunded mandates," Biryla said.  "These are all issues thar get voted on in various ways on various bills over two years, and it can be very difficult to keep track.   So we try to provide an easy, handy voter education tool for the public."

In the Syracuse area, republicans including John DeFrancisco in the senate, and Will Barclay and Gary Finch in the assembly all scored an 88.  But democrats like Senator Dave Valesky scored a 68, while Assemblymembers Bill Magnarelli and Al Stirpe scored 37 and 42 respectively.  While the results may seem to favor republicans, Biryla says their focus has always been on lawmakers who support pro-growth policies…and not on party politics.

"Our ultimate goal would be to see everybody regardless of party  score high on these marks," Biryla said. "We think a lot of the bills involving reform on things such as workers compensation, scaffold law, and other regulatory items are very common sense measures that unfortunately have been blocked for a number of years by powerful special interests."

Biryla says the scorecards are also a factor in their endorsement process.  

Here's how lawmakers are graded:

The scorecard grades are comprised of points accumulated or lost based on legislators’ sponsorships and floor votes on bills that Unshackle Upstate either supported or opposed.  A complete list of bills is available here. Votes and sponsorships were divided into four categories and graded with a maximum score of 100:

Scott Willis / WAER News

  Those who live, work, or visit parts of downtown Syracuse will soon be able to try their hand at playing some musical instruments.  The drums, bells, and pipes will be installed in clusters at three locations as part of an effort to bring music to the community.  Symphoria Managing Director Catherine Underhill says the instruments will be weatherproof and ADA accessible.

"They're all melodic, they're all tuned so they're harmonious one with another," Underhill said.  "They'll all be in ensemble formation, so you can just walk up and make some music."

John Smith / WAER News

  Indian Village at the New York State Fair will see $750,000 worth of improvements over the next year as the state continues it's $50 million makeover of the fairgrounds.  The announcement came during Six Nations Day at the New York State Fair Friday.  

The Indian Village has virtually stayed the same at the state fair for years now.  However, that’s about to change.   Superintendent of the Village Norm Jimerson says the news is lifting the members’ spirits.

Scott Willis / WAER News

  Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes to the state fairgrounds is in the midway after $50 million in upgrades.  The removal of the grandstand and race track opened up a more uniform space for the rides and games.  WAER News caught up with the man in charge of the midway…and a few fairgoers for some feedback.  

Sure, there are some strange shows and scary rides on the midway, but owner and CEO of Wade Shows Frank Zaitshik says that’s not the case with the new layout.

The state health department’s plans to expand access to New York’s restrictive medical marijuana program is being greeted with mixed reaction from doctors.  Dispensaries say growth of the program has been slow since the sale of cannabis began in January.   

  Syracuse internist Dr. Jeff Sneider is one of the few doctors in the area certified as a medical marijuana provider.  He said he did it partly out of curiosity, and knowing he had patients who might be eligible.

Marko Kokic/American Red Cross

 Dozens of Central New Yorkers are helping with relief efforts in Louisiana after severe flooding in and around Baton Rouge.  WAER News checked in on two different efforts from groups who’ve seen more than their share of disasters.

Judith Bello's facebook page

A Rochester-based activist and political analyst just back from a fact-finding mission to Syria will stop by Syracuse Tuesday evening to share observations from her week-long visit.  Judith Bello suggests all aspects of Syrian life seem to be struggling five years into the civil war.  This was her second visit to Syria in about two years.  She says one recurring theme despite the unrest is that Syria has historically been a religiously tolerant country, with different sects living in harmony.  Bello has seen it on the streets…

Scott Willis / WAER News

Many Central New Yorkers probably don’t know that downtown’s central library is one of the few places in the state where a visually impaired person can print documents in braille.  Most of us probably take for granted what we can see on a screen or printed page.  

Scott Willis / WAER News

  Visitors arriving at the new main gate of the state fair Thursday afternoon might have spotted about 20 people holding signs denouncing an executive order issued by Governor Cuomo in June that they say supports Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights.  Ariel Gold is campaign organizer with Code Pink Women for Peace, and happened to get the governor’s ear as he left the fairgrounds.

"I said to the governor you need to rescind your executive order creating a blacklist for those boycotting Israel, and I told him the reasons why we boycott."